The dog and handler approach the post. With a soft sound, the black and white dog casts to the right towards the sheep 500 yards away. As the dog approaches the rear of the sheep, he slows from a gallop to a walk, moving the sheep forward at a steady pace.
If you attend a sheepdog trial, you will see dog after dog cast to the right or the left on an outrun towards sheep that are the size of a dot. The dogs run full-out at a gallop and then, after stopping on a dime, skillfully guide sheep to the handler’s feet. Border Collies have been selectively bred for many years to be able to do these things instinctively—making them the world’s premier sheepdog.
You will never see dogs moving at a gallop in the conformation ring, nor will they exhibit the characteristic Border Collie crouch, but you will see dogs that should be capable of both. Border Collies have a truly unique way of moving around the conformation ring; they are agile and capable of changing speed and direction quickly. As a result, they should appear athletic and graceful.
The Border Collie should move on a loose lead with its head level or slightly below the withers. You should see the dog’s head drop down and the neck stretch out as it reaches full speed, which should be moderate. The space between the shoulder blades, felt when the Border Collie is standing, makes this movement possible. The topline should remain firm, with no roll or bounce. When viewed from the side, the trot should appear effortless with minimum lift of feet, the ground-covering gait attesting to the dog’s endurance. The movement of the Border Collie dog should not be fast and flashy; you should be able to envision the dog running out over 500 yards toward sheep in a field, bringing those sheep to the handler and then moving them around the course.
Front reach and rear drive are symmetrical. The front foot should reach to the nose and the rear foot should push back without excessive kick. Anything more is wasted motion; the Border Collie is the picture of efficiency. When viewed from the front, action is forward and true, neither wide nor narrow, elbows should be neither in nor out. Viewed from the rear, the hindquarters drive with thrust and flexibility. The hocks should turn neither in nor out, moving close together but never touching. In another spot in the standard, it mentions that the Border Collie’s rear feet may toe out slightly. This slight turning in of the rear hocks enables the Border Collie to make quick turns and easily transition from a “down” to movement, but this should never be seen while the dog is moving. The legs, both front and rear, converge as the dog gains speed so that, at a fast-enough pace, Border Collies “single track.”
A few words about how the Border Collie’s structure contributes to its ability to move with unique grace and beauty:
- the length of leg is crucial for the dog to be able to work as required;
- the distance from wither to elbow is slightly less than from elbow to ground;
- the prosternum should be felt but not seen;
- the chest should reach no further than the elbow;
- a space between elbow and chest should be visible, which enables the Border Collie to turn on a dime and move back and forth like a cutting horse.
These structural attributes allow the Border Collie to get into the quintessential “crouch.” In this position, Border Collies will often employ the legendary “eye” in their efforts to move sheep.
And then we come to the tail end of things. The Border Collie’s tail is set low and is moderately long. The ideal tail carriage is low when the dog is concentrating on a task. We often can tell when a dog is playing vs. working by the way it is carrying its tail, and for many dogs the conformation ring is fun. Tails may be raised in excitement but should not curl over the back. Tails that may come up while the dog is moving should settle down when the dog stops moving. These structural characteristics make the Border Collie the agile, graceful, and efficient dog that excels at herding and so many other things.
Are you looking for a Border Collie puppy?
The best way to ensure a long and happy relationship with a purebred dog is to purchase one from a responsible breeder. Not sure where to begin finding a breeder? Contact the National Parent Club’s Breeder Referral person, which you can find on the AKC Breeder Referral Contacts page.
Want to help rescue and re-home a Border Collie?
Did you know nearly every recognized AKC purebred has a dedicated rescue group? Find your new best friend on the AKC Rescue Network Listing.
Border Collie Dog Breed Magazine
Read and learn more about the energetic Border Collie dog breed with articles and information in our Border Collie Dog Breed Magazine.
Border Collie Breed Magazine - Showsight